DOHA (Middle East Eye) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are set to attend the opening ceremony of the Qatar World Cup on Sunday, in a sign of warming ties between Doha and the two countries.
Qatar has improved ties with Egypt and its Persian Gulf neighbors after a resolution last year to end a political row that had seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt boycott Doha for more than three years.
The Saudi crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, arrived in Doha late on Saturday to attend the ceremony. Egypt’s state TV said Sisi had also arrived in Qatar for the ceremony, Reuters reported.
Abdullah bin Hamad Al Thani, the deputy of Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was at the reception of Prince Mohammed upon his arrival, Qatar’s Amiri Diwan, which organizes royal affairs, said in a statement.
The opening ceremony in a tent-shaped stadium will be held at 2:40pm local time (14:40 GMT), ahead of the first match, which is between hosts Qatar and Ecuador.
Few details were available on heads of state attending, but state media said the UN secretary-general and Algeria’s president arrived on Saturday.
World Cup organizers, in response to criticism over Qatar’s human rights record have said that everyone, no matter their background, is welcome during the event.
Qatar, a small country with a population of about three million, mostly foreign workers, has said that it trained more than 50,000 people to provide security during the World Cup, with foreign forces helping out under Qatari command.
Organizers have also denied allegations of bribery for granting hosting rights as Qatar becomes the smallest nation to hold football’s biggest global event.